Chi­nese-Aus­tralian bil­lion­aire ac­cused of bribery 'very hon­ourable', court told

The Guardian Australia - - News -

The Chi­nese-Aus­tralian bil­lion­aire Chau Chak Wing who is su­ing Fair­fax Me­dia for defamation has been de­scribed by wit­nesses at his Syd­ney law­suit as a very hon­ourable man and one of the na­tion’s most gen­er­ous phi­lan­thropists.

Syd­ney GP Tony Goh Chong Maw tes­ti­fied that af­ter the pub­li­ca­tion of the Fair­fax ar­ti­cle in Oc­to­ber 2015 peo­ple in the lo­cal Chi­nese com­mu­nity con­veyed to him “their in­dig­na­tion” at the un­sub­stan­ti­ated story which he said re­ported that Chau had tried to bribe UN of­fi­cials.

Goh was one of three rep­u­ta­tion wit­nesses who gave ev­i­dence in the fed­eral court on Wed­nes­day in Chau’s le­gal ac­tion against Fair­fax and the jour­nal­ist John Gar­naut over the on­line ar­ti­cle.

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His lawyers claim the ar­ti­cle con­veys four defam­a­tory mean­ings, in­clud­ing that Chau bribed the for­mer UN pres­i­dent John Ashe and cre­ated his Aus­tralian busi­ness em­pire by mak­ing il­licit pay­ments to govern­ment of­fi­cials.

Fair­fax and Gar­naut deny the ar­ti­cle in­sin­u­ated “ac­tual guilt”, say­ing it sug­gested he was “sus­pected” of be­ing in­volved in the UN scan­dal, and con­tend the pub­li­ca­tion was rea­son­able.

The for­mer vice-chan­cel­lor of Syd­ney’s Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Ross Mil­bourne, said Chau do­nated $20m for its new busi­ness school build­ing.

“I was just re­cov­er­ing from that and he said, ‘I want to give an ex­tra $5m for schol­ar­ships,’ ” Mil­bourne said.

The uni­ver­sity de­cided to name the build­ing af­ter Chau who had not sought a favour or any­thing in re­turn for the do­na­tion. Mil­bourne con­sid­ered Chau a “very hon­ourable man”.

Goh, the chair­man of the Aus­tralian coun­cil of Chi­nese or­gan­i­sa­tions, told the court he had known Chau since 1999, and be­fore the ar­ti­cle was pub­lished he had “an excellent rep­u­ta­tion” and was highly re­spected in the com­mu­nity.

“His gen­eros­ity as well as his very hum­ble per­son­al­ity and very suc­cess­ful busi­ness per­son that re­ally make him a leader of our Chi­nese com­mu­nity,” he said.

He be­lieved the ar­ti­cle had no sub­stance but said it “very badly dam­aged the rep­u­ta­tion of Dr Chau”.

Syd­ney Uni­ver­sity’s di­rec­tor of mu­seum and cul­tural en­gage­ment, David El­lis, said Chau had do­nated $15m to the project.

“Dr Chau struck me as one of Australia’s most gen­er­ous phi­lan­thropists,” he said.

When he read the Fair­fax story he be­came con­cerned about whether it was true and had “a few sleep­less nights” wor­ried the uni­ver­sity could be­come em­broiled in the mat­ter by

as­so­ci­a­tion.

But he be­gan to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion and a col­league told him she in­ves­ti­gated and “was sat­is­fied there was noth­ing in them”.

The hear­ing con­tin­ues be­fore jus­tice

Michael Wigney.

Pho­to­graph: Peter Rae/AAP

Chau Chak Wing, who is su­ing Fair­fax and jour­nal­ist John Gar­naut for defamation, has been de­scribed in court as a ‘very hon­ourable man’.

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